Recipe: Aval Payasam or Poha Kheer

Earlier this week was Avani Avittam, the only festival dedicated to men in Hinduism (or rather tambramism) and since it was BB’s first one, we had to go down to the temple for a special prayer and then the next day was the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra. This sacred mantra is said to be the root mantra and it is said that reciting it 1008 times is said to be very beneficial.

On Avani Avittam, I made my Vermicelli payasam and the day of Gayatri Mantra, I made this easy Aval payasam or Poha Kheer. It’s a simple dish that can be made in less than 30 minutes, start to finish so even an FTWM can make this on a festival.

Aval Payasam/Poha Kheer

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup poha
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-litre full cream milk
  • a handful of cashew nuts
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsps ghee

Method:

  • In a pan heat the ghee and fry the cashew nuts and once brown, keep aside.
  • In the same pan, fry the poha till they slightly turn brown and at this point, add half the milk. Let the poha absorb the milk and then add the remainder of the milk.
  • When the milk comes to a rolling boil, let it boil for another 5 minutes until the poha is soft and has completely absorbed the milk
  • Add the sugar, cashew nuts, saffron and cardamom powder and let the kheer boil for another five minutes.
  • The kheer is ready to serve. Drink hot or cold, though we prefer to drink it cold!

Enjoy!!

 

My Singapore Journey

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Today Singapore celebrates its 52nd birthday and it’s the first one I celebrate as a Singaporean! It’s quite a surreal feeling when tonight I can recite the pledge and national anthem feeling I belong and not as an outsider looking in as it had been all these years. I’ve been a Singaporean for almost a year now, so this is not new news, but when I started writing this post, it seemed a good time to share this news.

My journey to becoming a Singaporean was a long time in coming. S, as you probably know is a native Singaporean and in the past few years, I had become increasingly aware that Singapore was home and not India. I became a stranger in my land of birth and when I land in Mumbai, the feeling was more of an anticipation of meeting my parents rather than a feeling of coming home. This feeling, however, I started to feel whenever I landed in Changi Airport and seeing the iconic airport control tower would make me feel as if I am now home. That’s when I realised that unconsciously over the years, Singapore had become home! So then I started the process to become a Singaporean not just in the heart, but also legally.

My position as the wife of a Singaporean meant I could have become one more than a decade back, but because I wanted to b sure I decided to wait so long. In the meantime, as they are wont to do, processes changed and the criteria became slightly more stringent.

You apply for citizenship online on the ICA website based on the category you fall under and at the same time book a slot to meet an officer who verifies your documents and also pay the fee. If I remember correctly (since this was a while back), I paid S$100 for this process. There are many people applying for this citizenship at the same time as you and so based on the queue, you get a slot to meet the office anytime from two months to even a year later. I got my slot around six months later and try as much as I could, I could not find an earlier slot.

During the verification process, which was quite fast (less than 30 minutes in my case), they check all documents depending on the category you are applying in. In my case, they not only wanted S’ documentation (including salary slips and a letter from his company confirming he was working there as of a date closest to the appointment date and all his educational transcripts and tax records), they also wanted copies of BB & GG’s birth certificates and passports. We didn’t have copies of the children’s passports, but since this was the same agency which issued them, the officer said they will just look up the records since they should have them. In my case, along with all relevant educational transcripts, they asked for salary and work information and tax statements. They only take photocopies of the documents after verifying the original. Once the officer was satisfied with the documents, he handed us a letter with a case number and told us that it will take around six months for ICA to send us an answer. We could use the case number to see the status of our application in the meantime (which is frankly speaking a waste since it always shows ‘under process’ and until you get the accept/reject letter, it is not changed).

Five months after this appointment, I got the acceptance letter from ICA. To complete all formalities before you renounce your existing citizens, you need to do three things – complete an online course about Singapore’s history. This is a simple course, followed by a short quiz, which can be completed in around 30 minutes. Then you need to go on a Singapore Journey. This Singapore Journey consists of going to multiple places (according to your schedule and what is available then). I chose the National Museum and the Newater Plant. It was a half day tour and educational, but I felt most participants were there because it was simply a requirement they had to tick to complete the process. At the museum, we were divided into groups, by age and in my group were 3-4 gentlemen who, from their accents, seemed to be from a single particular country. After the guide took us through the museum, we had to answer some questions in our groups. The gentlemen in my group I discovered could not speak English and were the least interested in answering the questions which were based on Singapore’s history and extremely easy if you paid slight attention to the guide. I kept wondering why they were not interested in their new country’s history and also how they will survive if they can’t understand or speak English, which is the official language here.

The last part is going to a group discussion meeting at a Community Club in the constituency that you stay in. This was facilitated by an external vendor and also had former new citizens assigned to each group (which was made up of people living near each other). Again interesting discussions, but most people were disinterested and there was a lady in my group (again from the same country mentioned above) who could not speak or understand English and had to have another person translate for her.

After you finish all these items, your attendance is marked in each activity and is passed to ICA. Then a few weeks after all items are checked off, you finally get the coveted letter that you, at this point, have been waiting for from anything between 18 to 24 months telling you that you are a Singapore citizen. They also give you an appointment to go down to ICA to finish the process of your citizenship.

The last thing to do is renounce your original citizenship before your appointment at ICA and for an Indian passport, this means filling up a form, found online and going down to the Indian High Commission’s agent BLS International along with the letter from ICA and after a week or so, going down to the High Commission to get the letter of renunciation.

Next, at your appointment with ICA, you need to scan the application form barcode and you get a queue number. At the first counter, they check documents. Since my application was under spouse of a Singaporean, S had to sign a paper that he is doing this of free will and also pay $80 for the registration and Identity Card (IC) fees.

At the second, your thumbprint from both hands is taken for for the IC. Also, retina scans which were just introduced. Then you sign the form and wait for your number to be called to take the oath of allegiance in front of a Justice of Peace (JP). You fill up your name a page in the application form and then take the oath standing up with your right hand raised and the palm facing outward. To paraphrase the oath, you swear to renounce all rights and privileges from any foreign country and also forsake any loyalty to any foreign country and will be faithful and bear allegiance to the Republic of Singapore and will be a faithful citizen. The JP then gave me a piece of paper which is was temporary IC and told me about the citizenship ceremony which will happen later. As I was leaving her office, the JP welcomed me to Singapore!

Next is to apply for a passport which you can do on level one of the same building. You get a card from them in around a week and have to go down to collect it.

The last step is the Citizenship ceremony which for me took a couple of months more. Here the local MP (it was not in my constituency, but another one in the same Group Representative Constituency (GRC)) will give each new citizen their new pink IC (Singaporeans get a pink identity card and permanent residents (equivalent to green card holders in the US) get a blue identity card) along with their citizenship certificate. Each GRC holds this ceremony every quarter and if you are lucky, you get yours almost immediately and if unlucky, have to wait for a few months to get the IC. Till then you just explain to everyone that you are a new citizen and are waiting for your pink IC!

So that was my Singapore journey. If this has helped anyone who is thinking of becoming a Singaporean or even is in the process, I hope this is something you find useful!

Recipe: Dal Fry

Dal Fry is such a ubiquitous dish that it finds a place in almost every menu that offers Indian food. However, and when I think back, it is quite strange that I’ve not made this dish ever for the children and S, considering it used to be a staple in my repertoire pre-marriage! So anyway, while planning on my menu last week, I decided to make this at last and it was very well liked by everyone at home. 

This is a fairly easy dish to make and makes the dal thick, unlike traditional dals. So when you cook the dal, make sure you do not add too much water while cooking, so it retains its thickness.

Dal Fry

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toor dal, washed and soaked in warm water with a pinch of turmric powder for 30 minutes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large red tomato, finely chopped
  • 4-5 pods of garlic, grated or made into a paste
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated or made into a paste
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp carom seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder 
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 3-4 dried red chillies
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

  • In a pressure cooker, cook the dal for 5-6 whistles. If using the stovetop to cook the dal, cook till it is very mushy and becomes whole and smooth with a paste-like consistency. Keep aside.
  • In another pan, heat the ghee and when it warms, add the cumin seeds and carom seeds one after the other, with a few seconds of stirring in between.
  • Now add the dried red chillies and stir for a few seconds. Next add the chopped onions and stir well, letting the onions become translucent.
  • When the onions become translucent, add the garlic and ginger and let them cook for a while.
  • Now add the dry ingredients – salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and coriander powder and stir for around 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture becomes mushy and the tomatoes lose their shape and become soft.
  • Now add the cooked dal and stir well. Check for seasoning and add what is missing. Add the garam masala and let it cook for around 5-10 minutes. You can add water to make it the consistency you like.
  • Switch off the gas and add the lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves. 

Serve hot with plain or jeera rice and a vegetable of your choice.

Recipe: Moong Dal Khichdi

Moong Dal Khichdi 3This is one of BB’s favourite dishes. I too like to make this because this is a fairly easy dish to make and since it’s a one pot dish, you don’t have many dishes to wash post cooking. This is also good to make ahead and just cook it when you need to eat. It is also very versatile as you can play around with the ingredients, especially the vegetables.

Moong Dal Khichdi 4Moong Dal Khichdi

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati rice, soaked in water for 20-30 minutes
  • 1/2 cup yellow split moong dal, soaked in water for 20-30 minutes
  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts, soaked in hot water for 20-30 minutes
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tomato, chopped finely
  • 1/2 carrot, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1 potato, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

Method:

  • Once the rice and dal have been soaked for 20-30 minutes, drain them and keep aside.
  • Drain the peanuts and keep aside.
  • In a pan, heat the oil and saute the cumin and fennel seeds. When they pop, add the garlic and saute for a few seconds and then the ginger and saute for a few seconds.
  • Now add the sliced onions and let it brown. Once the onions start browning and start to become translucent, add the other vegetables one by one.
  • Now add all the dry spices – red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt and saute for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the peanuts and let it cook for a few minutes and then the dal, followed by the rice, stirring in-between.
  • Transfer this mixture to a rice cooker and add 1.5 cups of water and cook till done.
  • If you are cooking this on the stove top, keep an eye on the water levels and add more water, if needed to cook the rice and dal to the consistency you like.

Moong Dal Khichdi 2This is a complete meal in itself with carbs from the rice, protein from the dal and fibre from the vegetables.

You can add other vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, beans etc to increase the nutritive value of the meal as well as if you are planning to make for more people. The above recipe was perfect for a single meal for four adults.

This can be served with crisps or chips and a raita of your choice.

Moong Dal Khichdi 1

Recipes: Pumpkin Dal

Pumpkin Dal 2The other day, it was just me and BB at home for dinner. S was eating out with friends and R was also out. GG had to stay back in school and so would not have lunch with us. I was wondering what to cook for just the two of us when I saw that a quarter of an orange pumpkin which was starting to go bad. After thinking about what to make, I decided to make a dal with the pumpkin. It turned out great and is super easy to make.  There’s hardly any cooking to be done once you cook the dal and then just lightly temper it.

Pumpkin Dal 3Pumpkin Dal

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup orange pumpkin or squash, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup yellow split moong dal, washed and kept aside
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder

To temper:

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
  • 2-3 red dried red chillies (optional)
  • 2 tsp ghee

Method:

  • In a pressure cooker, add the moong dal and pumpkin and pressure cook it for 3 whistles or until the dal and pumpkin are fully cooked. and
  • If you are using the stove top to cook, cook it till the dal is soft and mushy and the pumpkin is fully cooked and starts to disintegrate.
  • When the pressure cooker cools down, open and mash the dal and pumpkin together till it becomes a homogenous mixture.and
  • Add salt and red chilli powder to taste and keep aside.and
  • In a smaller pan, heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds. When it splutters, add the asafoetida and the dried red chillies (if using) and pour the tempering to the dal immediately. Cover the dal for five minutes to let the tempering infuse the dal.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or any flat bread

Pumpkin Dal 1